What is Man?

There is a place between the intellect and the heart–a fence, as it were, that divides the greener sides of faith and truth. There are those who would have us believe that our feelings justify our faith, that if something feels right then it must be right; and there are those who would have us test everything, defend everything, rationalize everything we claim as true. I think maybe both have valid points (and I’ve certainly claimed both at different times in my life). But I think there’s a compromise between the two.

I think there must be. If something could only be called “true” if we were able to absolutely prove it beyond question, then we would never believe anything. And conversely, if something could be called “true” by the mere emotion we feel, we would believe anything. The two must balance each other.

But there’s something more. There is something deeper than our brains and our hearts. I’m not sure what it is–kidneys, perhaps?

Last night, after a long and difficult day, I stood on the back deck, breathing deep of the cool Autumn air and gazing upon the starry host that God has given us. Sometimes when I’m silent, I think I can hear them declaring God’s glory. And it reminds me how small I am. How insignificant. Just a speck of dust in this great existence God has called into being.

And it humbles me. It brings low the importance of both my intellect and my emotions. It brings low my pride in thinking that I might claim to “know” anything about the Keeper of the Worlds. What can man truly know? What can man truly comprehend of a God who is altogether separate from everything else we can know?

And in spite of our tiny-ness, our inability to rightly comprehend Him or serve Him, He has given the full measure of His love for us. Not only has He loved us, but He has loved us with an everlasting love, and set us just a little lower than the heavenly beings. He has crowned us with glory and honor.

What is man that He is mindful of us?

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

Psalm 8:3-5, ESV

Perhaps we try too hard to justify what God speaks to our souls. Perhaps the question is not whether we can prove a thing, or whether it feels right; rather, perhaps the question is whether we can recognize the stillness of God’s voice as He speaks to us through shooting stars and Saturn and the Milky Way. And when He does–will we accept it, deep within us, where neither knowledge nor emotion are valid proofs?

Bellies to Fill

I have always loved Rich Mullins, but this song has really been on my heart the past few days.  A few superficial mentions:

  • Nice shorts, Rich. Seriously?
  • I love that 12-string.
  • Did you see that little boy at 2:14?
  • Who walks and plays guitar at the same time?
  • I love the Thai part at the beginning.

Less superficial mentions:

  • I want to go to Burkina Faso and meet Joseph.
  • He has really made my life richer in ways I cannot express.
  • Are you sponsoring a child through Compassion International?
  • The idea of missions both terrifies and stirs my heart. It always has.
  • “There’s many bellies to fill and many hearts to free.”

If I Hadn’t…

If I hadn’t left the Church in 2001…

  • I would not have learned to study Scripture (as opposed to simply reading Scripture);
  • I would not have learned to defend my faith;
  • I would not have drawn on the musical and doctrinal strength of hymns;
  • I would not have joined Tweb–which means I would never have made a few poor choices, but also means I would never have connected with those friends who appeal to my inner theology geek, or stumbled upon the phrase, “the theology of music”;
  • I would not have fought with Jenny;
  • I would not have forgiven and been forgiven by Jenny;
  • I would not have become such sister-friends with Colette;
  • I would not have known Jack, except as an acquaintance;
  • I would not have grown confident enough to say, “I have forgiven him;”
  • I would not have written that novel, or those poems, or those songs, or those letters, or those blogs.

The list is endless. There are so many things in my life that would be different today if I’d settled myself and not questioned my faith. I won’t lie to you: Some of the results are not as wonderful as those listed above. To be honest, some of the results still shadow my heart.

But I no longer regret that time in my life. I see it more every day, that even in my richest folly, I was in the hands of a sovereign, gracious, faithful Lord, who knew exactly what evils my choices would result in. And somehow, those evils that were conceived in my own frustration, my own sin, Christ has birthed into passions and ministries and relationships that I never would have known if I’d “just believed.”

So would my life have been better if I’d not failed? Perhaps. But perhaps I would have made other choices, worse choices, irreparable choices. Who knows? Only God knows. And only God still knows what good He may accomplish through my life. But I do not regret–I do not mourn–the choices I made yesterday.

There is a Redeemer. So yes–repent of your sin; turn from your folly; bring your contrite heart before the forgiving Savior. But trust in Christ. Trust in His ability to restore what the worm has eaten. Trust in His desire and purpose to do just that.

Passive & Submissive

What’s the difference?

More specifically, what’s the difference for a Christian?

passive: receptive to outside impressions or influences; lacking in energy or will; induced by an outside agency.

submit: to yield to governance or authority; to yield oneself to the authority or will of another; to permit oneself to be subjected to something; to defer to or consent to abide by the opinion or authority of another.

Desires & Purpose

So what do I desire? And how will I achieve it?

I’m thinking about this as of late. I don’t know the answers. We live in a world that says we should have everything we want, whenever we want it, and running over people is acceptable as long as it serves some purpose. Be assertive, the world says; know what you want, put your boots on, and go get it. But is that how a Christian should live? Is that how a follower of Christ should pursue her desires? I don’t think so.

Rich Mullins spoke of these issues:

The more we pursue what we think we want, the more it eludes us. Or, we get what we think we want, and we find out we didn’t really want it in the first place. Everything that we go after will disappoint us. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of advantage in being terrifically assertive. We do not find happiness by being assertive. The Scriptures don’t teach us to be assertive. The Scriptures teach us–and this is remarkable–the Scriptures teach us to be submissive.

Christ would have us serve. We may be here for a purpose, but we are not here to serve ourselves. It is so easy (for me!) to confuse the two. I get to thinking that this “purpose”–whatever it may be–is that “greater good” that justifies pursuit “by any means.” It’s not. For a follower of Christ, purpose can only come to fruition within the parameters of obedience to and fellowship with Christ our King. It is His purpose that calls to our hearts.

We know that He has a purpose for each one of our lives, but the moment we stop looking to Him to define that purpose, we have set up a throne for some other lord–some lesser lord–to reign in our hearts, our relationships, our actions, our choices, and even our ministries.

So know your desires. Know your heart. Make a plan. But never forget that the heart is deceitful above all things. Never forget that any purpose you pursue that pulls you away from your Savior is not worth the price of achieving.  If your desires and purpose is not God-inspired and God-fulfilled, then it will fade like the morning mist.

And please, help me to remember.

Have a blessed weekend, folks! And on a personal note, please keep my mother in your prayers this weekend; she is quite unwell. Next week, I promise we’ll do something fun (of course…I get to define “fun”…).

Pax Domini!


Which Hero?

One of the books on my nightstand right now is from the Christian Encounters Series by Thomas Nelson, a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. I am a slow reader to begin with, but every once in awhile, I find a book so challenging to me that it really takes a long time to work through it (ask Tozer–I took me about eight months to read The Knowledge of the Holy). This is one of them.

Quite frankly, I didn’t know much about St. Francis when I chose this book for the Booksneeze blogger book review program (which, if you’re not a part of, you need to be. Go on…I’ll wait while you sign up. What could be better than free books? Click the link.) I chose this book because St. Francis holds the remarkable distinction of being the hero of my hero. Big deal, right? Well, it is a big deal to me. I have few heroes–so few that I can count them on one hand. There just are not many people (dead or alive) who have risen to “hero” status for me. Maybe I’m hard to please. I like to think that I have exceptional standards. ;)

Nonetheless, St. Francis of Assisi was Rich Mullins’ hero. Rich, not nearly as well known as he should have been, penned some of Christian music’s greatest songs, to include “Sing Your Praise to the Lord”–made popular by Amy Grant–and “Awesome God”–yes, that chorus you sing in church. Rich was so much more than an amazing songwriter and musician, but this blog is not about what makes Rich my hero.

As I was reading yesterday about St. Francis’ choice to pursue poverty (an enormous choice; we are to understand that his father was a successful businessman–a business that St. Francis was to grow into), I remembered something I’d read several years ago in The World As I Remember It: Through the Eyes of a Ragamuffin, which collected posthumously several  of Rich’s previously published writings:

Before I got into this music business, I was determined to live a life of dire and grinding poverty. I remember my uncle saying, ‘Wow, you are so proud of being poor–what’s so great? You would do a lot better to be a little more industrious, a little more frugal. If you’re really concerned about the poor, becoming poor isn’t going to help them, it’s just going to ease your own conscience. If you’re really concerned about the poor, go out and make a fortune and spend it on them.’ (p. 140)

So who was right? Was St. Francis right in choosing to live a life of poverty, claiming that it would free us to know God more intimately? Or was Rich’s uncle right in saying that we would do better to give generously to alleviate poverty? Neither are easy options, to be sure, but is one more true or more right than the other?

And more importantly…if St. Francis was right, would anyone in America today have the guts to give it all up?

And even more importantly…would I?